Over the past ten years, I’ve had the privilege to collaborate on over a dozen academic and industry-partnered interface innovation projects, including several with budgets of over a million dollars. Some of our team members are working with other researchers for the first time, and many of them have not worked previously with researchers from other disciplines. Over the years, and based on our experiences in collaboration, we have developed a project charter for helping to manage expectations of the various members of interdisciplinary research teams. The charter is based on the need to explicitly discuss principles and policies of research practice with people from different disciplines at the start of the project, and to have a common agreement to refer to if necessary during the project. Our current template contains the following principles:
- We are interested in disseminating the results of this project as widely as possible, with credit to us for doing it.
- We intend this work to move forward at a steady pace, given due awareness of the vagaries of life.
- We would prefer for this work to be funded.
- We understand that the work we do on this project may have future phases. Modifications and additions may be made to further the project by other members.
- We wish to communicate in such a way as to preserve professional dignity.
- We would like to foster goodwill among all the participants.
Although these seem on the surface like motherhood statements that would go without saying, in practical terms these principles, and the longer list of policies that emerge from them, are actually the basis of fundamental misunderstandings between disciplines.
Ruecker, Stan and Milena Radzikowska. “The Design of a Project Charter for Interdisciplinary Research.” Proceedings of Designing Interactive Systems (DIS 2007). Cape Town. February 2008.
[full paper: Radzikowska DIS2008 Project charter]